How do I create a hotkey for entering my email address? I seem to do this dozens of times a day and it seems to be a chore!
Have I got a recommendation for you. The only caveat is that it’s a tad geeky to set up, but it’s incredibly powerful. I run it on both my Windows XP desktop and Vista laptop.
AutoHotkey is a free, small program that remains running in your notification area. It intercepts keystrokes (and mouse activity, if you like), and allows you to configure anything from simple remapping of one key to another, to simple text insertion, as you’ve described, to complex actions that are nearly little programs in and of themselves.
One thing that’s easy to overlook is that AutoHotkey works at the keyboard level and is not tied to any application. So, anything you use it for is available at any time, regardless of what program you happen to be using.
My needs are fairly simple, so let me show you some of the things that I have AutoHotkey configured to do.
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- I find myself typing “http://ask-leo.com” a lot, so I have the key sequence “]ta” mapped to that. Any time I type “]ta”, in any application, “http://ask-leo.com” is inserted instead.
- My 8 line email signature (one of several) is automatically typed in for me in response to “]th”. I can use that directly in my email program, in a text editing program, or even across a remote desktop or terminal session.
- The sequence “]dd” inserts the current date like this:
- I happen to run “xplorer2” instead of Windows Explorer, so I have the WindowsKey+E keystroke remapped to start xplorer2 instead of Windows Explorer.
- My Caps Lock key, which I never use for Caps Lock, has been remapped into a MUTE button.
You get the idea. I also have a few shortcuts for common HTML elements that I find myself entering frequently.
Don’t let the “]xx” format of my shortcuts throw you either, I chose that. In reality, it can be anything you want – “btw” could automatically type in “by the way”, for example. I just chose something that I’d be unlikely to actually ever want literally.
- Automate almost anything by sending keystrokes and mouse clicks. You can write a mouse or keyboard macro by hand or use the macro recorder.
- Create hotkeys for keyboard, joystick, and mouse. Virtually any key, button, or combination can become a hotkey.
- Expand abbreviations as you type them. For example, typing “btw” can automatically produce “by the way”.
- Create custom data-entry forms, user interfaces, and menu bars. See GUI for details.
- Remap keys and buttons on your keyboard, joystick, and mouse.
- Respond to signals from hand-held remote controls via the WinLIRC client script.
- Convert any script into an EXE file that can be run on computers that don’t have AutoHotkey installed.
The approach I’m using – hand coding the AutoHotkey macros – can seem a tad geeky, because, well, it is. Here’s the AutoHotkey code to type in “http://ask-leo.com”:
“SendEvent” sends keystrokes, but the more confusing part is that “:*:]ta::” part, which defines when the macro should kick in. Once you have that, the rest is fairly easy.
That aside, even with my simple usage I’ve only skimmed the surface of what AutoHotkey can be used for. Certainly, for simple things like text replacement or keystroke remapping, it’s a near perfect solution.
I recommend it.